chapter  4
Defenses Used in the Diagnosis of Psychopathology
Pages 23

The literature on using defenses in psychological diagnosis begins with Freud’s (1894) early work, later modified by Anna Freud’s (1936) seminal monograph. Vaillant (1992) differentiates defensive operations by their level of “maturity,” meaning the psychosexual level at which they originated, and then suggests that the use of more mature defenses indicates healthier mental functioning. Willick (1985), contrarily, demonstrates that diagnostic distinctions in adults based on the level of maturity of their defenses is less useful than ego function assessment in differentiating psychotic from nonpsychotic states.